With train horns adding to the festive scene, thousands greeted the arrival of commuter rail at the Central Park Blvd. (CPB) station on Saturday, April 23. (More on those horns later).
The new University of Colorado A Line service officially began on the 22nd with a VIP train departing Denver Union Station at 7:30 am. It arrived early at the DIA airport station, setting off a mad scramble among folks trying to photograph the ribbon cutting on the level one platform. That and a stalled escalator up to level 5 were about the only glitches on the first weekend of this long-awaited rail service.
Voters approved the so-called FasTracks regional mass transit build-out in a November 2004 vote that also authorized a sales tax increase to help fund the system. The A Line is the first of five system components to open this year, 12 years after the vote. Commuter rail to Arvada (G Line), Westminster (B Line) and light rail through Aurora (R Line) will follow the A Line and the recently inaugurated bus rapid transit corridor serving Boulder and communities along the U.S. 36 corridor.
The grand opening ceremony at DIA’s new open-air plaza featured 13 speakers including four members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation plus Governor Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. The rhetoric was self-congratulatory as might be expected, with most of the elected officials opining that this project sets an example of imagination, investment, innovation and bi-partisanship that Congress could use as a template. Many of the speakers lauded former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, who was in the audience, for having the vision 30 years ago to “imagine a great city” that would include a new international airport accessible by rail passenger trains.
DIA CEO Kim Day had only one “quibble” with the “Train to the Plane” theme chosen to advertise the start of commuter rail service to the airport. She said it should be “Train to the Planet,” a sentiment that Hancock echoed when he said, “this region is ready to get on the global stage.”
RTD General Manager Dave Genova concluded the ceremony by declaring Friday, April 22 a great day, adding, “Incredible partnerships have made the Denver metro area a great transit region.”
Genova arrived at the CPB station on Saturday, by train, of course, to partake in the public art dedication of the “Balloon Man” sculpture and the myriad other activities. By mid-day, lines to get on the train extended several hundred feet. Alighting passengers noted the smooth stable ride of the 70-ton commuter rail vehicles. Their 79-mile per hour top speed is perceptible only by visually noting the speed at which the train passed by cars along Peña Blvd. While the electric-powered trains run quietly, they still announce their arrival at stations and intersections with the traditional two-long-one-short-two-long horn blasts. An RTD spokesman said the push for a “quiet zone” along the A Line awaits final approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission.
The Central Park Station Planning Committee, comprised of Northeast Transportation Connections, be well, Forest City and Stapleton Master Community Association, organized the CPB event.